Why do shooting ranges forbid steel ammunition?

Nature conservation: will lead ammunition finally be banned?

Said restriction at least could have been in force a long time ago. Because as early as 2018, the Echa clearly recommended that lead shot be completely banned in wetlands. However, the responsible committee of country representatives has postponed the vote several times in the past few months.

"It is unprecedented that scientific recommendations are so brutally disregarded"
(Ariel Brunner, bird protection umbrella organization Birdlife International in Brussels)

Europe's conservationists suspect that this is due to lobbying by hunting organizations and ammunition manufacturers. "It is unprecedented that scientific recommendations are so brutally disregarded," criticized Ariel Brunner from the bird protection umbrella organization Birdlife International in Brussels. "The fact that the obviously plausible ban is met with such resistance is astonishing," says a neutral insider from the Brussels administration. Normally, recommendations from Echa, which often result in consultations lasting for years, are followed.

Hunting associations say "yes, but"

The general secretary of the European umbrella organization Face, David Scallan, assures us that we are fundamentally behind an end to the use of lead shot in wetlands. "We support the gradual abolition, if this is done in a way that is understandable for hunters and the authorities." But for many the Commission draft is too broad. Specifically, the lobby association, which represents seven million hunters, criticizes an over-extensive definition of wetlands and thus of the area in which the ban is supposed to apply. Face also rejects the ban in a designated buffer zone around wetlands. The Jägerverband also calls for a longer transition period for the switch to lead-free ammunition than the 18 months originally planned by the Commission. This is necessary because in some countries there are currently no restrictions on lead ammunition. "Up to 70 percent of shotguns in Poland, Ireland and Romania would have to be tested and possibly converted for steel shot," argues Scallan.

The Commission has now resolved a central point of contention by weakening its proposal. Instead of a "prohibition of possession", there is now only a "ban on taking along" during a hunting excursion in wetlands. Hunters had feared a possible criminalization in the event of a property ban, while proponents argued that this was the only way to effectively control compliance with the rule. The federal government had also refused to approve the lead shot ban because of this point. After this and other concessions to the hunters - for example, the transition period in the Commission's proposal was extended from 18 to 24 months and the buffer zone around wetlands was reduced from 300 to 100 meters - the lead shot ban appeared to have been decided after a five-year debate. The vote in the Reach regulatory committee was scheduled for June 23, 2020.

But of all things, a dispute within the federal government endangers the entry into force at the very last minute. According to several insiders, the Federal Environment Ministry pleads for approval, while the Agriculture Ministry continues to reject the Commission proposal. Negotiators fear that the vote will be postponed again if there is no agreement between the German ministries at the beginning of the week.

The Ministry of Agriculture argues that lead-free shot made of steel or other metals does not have a sufficient killing effect on larger species such as raccoons or Egyptian geese. Experts contradict this and refer to the practice in Denmark, for example, where hunters have long been able to kill their prey without a lead. Even the Hunting Association Face considers steel shot, for example, to be just as effective as lead. It is only necessary to choose a larger caliber, according to a guidebook.